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updated: 11/3/2010 5:37 AM

Mussman holds narrow lead for 56th House

Mussman just ahead of Higgins

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Democrat Michelle Mussman was holding tight to a narrow lead early Wednesday morning in her bid to keep the 56th District state House seat in Democratic hands.

In one of the closest races of Election Day, Mussman had 13,688 votes, or 51.2 percent of the total, to Republican rival Ryan Higgins' 13,031 with 76 of 78 precincts reporting at 2:15 a.m. when counting stopped in Cook County. Officials will resume tallying ballots sometime after 10 a.m.

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"We're very optimistic," Mussman said. "We're only ahead by a little bit. It was a close race, but I'm glad it was a close race."

Mussman said the tightness of the contest demonstrated the quality of both candidates, but she felt it was her familiarity with the district and number of local volunteers that kept her ahead throughout the night.

Higgins declined to comment until further precincts had been tallied and questions over the day's counting procedures were resolved.

Though the 56th state House District has been historically Republican, the nature of retiring Rep. Paul Froehlich's final years in office made its future unclear.

A longtime member of the GOP, Froehlich switched parties in 2007 and won re-election a year later.

With his decision to step down this year, the seat seemed equally open for both of Froehlich's would-be successors, 29-year-old Higgins and 37-year-old Mussman.

The Schaumburg residents were political newcomers, but that didn't stop them from criticizing the other's background.

Mussman attacked Higgins as a carpetbagger with dreams of becoming a career politician, and questioned his long-term commitment to the 56th District.

Higgins, meanwhile, criticized Mussman's position on issues as weakly defined. He focused on her receiving much of her campaign funding from Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan while at the same time proclaiming her independence from him.

Both struggled to be seen as the more credible anti-tax proponent.

The 56th District includes Schaumburg and portions of Elk Grove Village, Hoffman Estates, Palatine, Rolling Meadows, Hanover Park, Roselle and Bloomingdale.

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